Tuesday, October 10, 2017

In Case You Were Wondering…

As readers of my blog know, I don’t like to discuss personal matters. I’ll talk about societal issues, the craft of writing, and even relay a few humorous anecdotes, but I prefer to keep my private life private. I believe an author’s job is to provide his readers with informative and entertaining books, not to indulge in pandering to readers’ curiosity about the personal life of the authors they follow. But there is one exception to that rule.

The exception is when personal matters interfere with an author’s ability to meet his obligations to his readers. So I’ll break my long-standing rule this once and explain why I’ve been off the grid for quite some time: why I haven’t sent out my monthly newsletter in seven months; why my blog posts have dropped from three-per-week to one-or-two-per-month (and even then some have been republished posts); and why several books announced for publication in 2017 have been delayed.

I offer this not as an excuse or apology but simply as an explanation for those of you who have noticed, and particularly for those of you who have written in. If you’re not one of those, you should probably stop reading right now and wait until I have something far more interesting to post.

Some of you may recall my blog post a few years earlier about the death of my grandmother, to whom I was extremely close. What I did not reveal was that shortly thereafter my beloved canine companion also died following complications from a protracted illness that had required a great deal of personal caregiving and an enormous financial commitment -- her last day in the hospital alone ran up a $14,000 bill, creating even more stress and financial hardship for me. All throughout this period, I had been diagnosed with suspected thyroid cancer and had been putting off the recommended surgery, partially because the attendant risks of the operation and partially because of the other situations I was dealing with, including a myriad of other health problems.

I continued ignoring the advice of many doctors until finally my surgeon reviewed the latest ultrasound scans and said it was time. I had chosen, quite literally, one of the finest surgeons in this specialty in the world so his opinion weighed heavily with me. There was also the uncertainty of what the Trump administration might do regarding the availability of insurance coverage, so I agreed to have the surgery. It involved cutting between the jugular vein and the carotid artery, with the risk of accidentally slicing the vocal cords leaving the patient unable to speak. I scheduled the operation at the out-of-town cancer facility.

Two weeks before my scheduled surgery, my cat was diagnosed with lymphoma, a particularly insidious form of cancer that cannot be cured by surgery. Sometimes the patient’s life may be prolonged by chemotherapy, and I started my cat on that. I watched her lose half her weight as I tried to do everything I could to prolong her life and make her comfortable. Then, I had to leave her to go to my own surgery. The day before my operation, the doctor did the preliminary tests, scans, and exams. He noticed I had a suspicious lymph node in my neck: it was 2 ½ times the normal size, the cell wall had broken down, and the nucleus did not look right. He still planned to remove part or all of my thyroid because of the suspected thyroid cancer; however now he also wanted to remove the lymph node and send it off to be biopsied to determine if I had lymphoma.

I had studied up on lymphoma to help care for my dying cat. I knew what it was; I knew how devastating it could be; and I knew that while it might be possible through chemotherapy or radiation to put it into remission that there was no cure and that it could not be surgically removed. After my surgery, I was released from the hospital and returned home a few days later to spend the next two weeks watching my cat die from lymphoma, waiting for my own biopsy report that would tell me if I was seeing a preview of what would be in store for me shortly. After my cat’s death, I learned my biopsy report had returned negative.

I was still recuperating from my operation. It was painful, as all surgeries are, and the painkillers they give you have the unfortunate effect of making you sleep a lot, which adversely affects your productivity. I sent out one final newsletter to let my subscribers to let them know what was happening but that was all I could manage. I had a number of blog posts I wanted to write, but between the tendonitis and bursitis in my arm that limited my typing and the throat surgery that made it nearly impossible to use dictation software, I had to cut back on the blog posts.

I had a number of books planned for release in 2017, and fortunately all of the announced books had already been written and edited. But there were two problems. The first was, because of my health issues, I would not be physically able to do all the marketing required for of these books once they had been released. It was decided to postpone publication of all but one until my health had improved.

The second problem has to deal with one of my publisher’s primary distributors. I will not identify the party because we are currently contemplating litigation against them for unfair trade practices, and fraudulent and deceptive business practices they engaged in, which cost us tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales. I prefer to discuss lawsuits after I’ve won them and not before. To paraphrase Kenny Rogers, “You never count your money when you're sittin’ at the table; there'll be time enough when the dealin’s done.”

There were other business-side problems as well. One of our printers fell to a new level of incompetence, and was no longer even able to provide us with a dedicated account rep. Phone calls went unreturned, follow-up rarely occurred, and problems went unresolved. Then, our much-anticipated audiobook project fell apart when the chosen narrator did not live up to the contract and produce the audiobook.

Meanwhile, a lot of these great books promised for 2017 that were sitting in the can ready to be released had to go on hiatus. But I didn’t want to completely disappear from the scene, so in an attempt to attract some new readers and whet existing readers’ appetites for the publication, I turned to Wattpad and started publishing excerpts from several of my previously published series. The stories were well received and that led to a brand-new series that will definitely be published in 2018.

But back to 2017. I was fairly well recovered from the surgery and while we were dealing with the devastating financial losses caused by the illegal activities of one of our distributors, I managed to release the eleventh edition of Issues in Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law, first as an electronic download available from the wonderful people at VitalSource, the leader in digital textbook distribution, and shortly thereafter a print version.

And then, last month we were told that a Category 5 hurricane was heading straight toward us and that we would be wiped out. Our homes and offices were in buildings that were not built to withstand anything higher than a Category 3. We were advised to pack up what we could and flee the entire state, which in my case was impractical. If we chose to remain, we were warned, we would likely be flooded and lose our roofs and some or all of our walls. We would lose every item we owned. It was a very stressful time. Fortunately, the hurricane veered to the northwest and we were only struck by Category 1 winds, yet still threatened by about two dozen tornadoes spawned by the storm. We now had to spend the subsequent weeks cleaning up and repairing the fortunately minor damage we suffered. It could have been much, much worse had the storm not changed direction, but the stress during that week was overwhelming.

Emergency services were not available during the hurricane. Even afterwards, the roads were filled with debris, fallen trees, and downed power lines feeding live electricity into the numerous puddles. It was a bad time for my health to take yet another turn for the worse, but as soon as the roads were cleared I was able to get to the emergency room of the local hospital. I believed I had developed a thrombosis in my leg, and if there were a blood clot it could travel to my heart and cause instant death. Fortunately, after an ultrasound, the hospital concluded there did not appear to be a blood clot but that I had other serious health issues causing the problem I was experiencing. I was referred to several other doctors, including my own general practitioner and specialist, as well as to a neurologist. I’ve spent the last two weeks going to different doctor offices, having exams and consultations, running blood tests, having MRIs and ultrasounds, and other specialized tests.

So I guess the short answer to why I haven’t been posting my blog regularly, sending out my monthly newsletter, replying to nonessential emails, and most importantly publishing my books on schedule is that I’ve been a bit busy. But that sounds flippant, and my readers who have stuck with me this long and given me their support and encouragement deserve a better answer, so I hope this incredibly long one suffices.

Now, some good news. My long-awaited book, Cub: The Story of a Boy Reporter will be published next week. I’m going to try to post on Facebook about it, and maybe a post on my blog but that’s about all the marketing I’m up to doing right now. I hope my fans will check it out and spread the word for me. 

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